Showing posts from February, 2018

(Almost) spring blooms

Finally! My garden has a few (almost) spring blooms opening up. Carolina jessamine. Bees of all kinds do love those jessamine flowers. Poppies. More poppies. And more poppies. And still more. Purple oxalis blooms just beginning to peek out. Sweet alyssum. Loropetalum chinense (Chinese fringeflower). I love these fringy fuchsia-colored flowers. Daffodils, of course. Some in yellow. And some in white. Scabiosa (pincushion flower). The flowers are actually a bit more blue than they appear in the image. These flowers just confirm that spring really is beginning to peek over the horizon.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel: A review

This (mostly) delightful little book had languished in my reading queue for quite a while. Time to move it on up and tick that box. This was the writer's debut novel, first published in 1989, and it has enjoyed continuing popularity over the years. The story takes place at the turn of the 20th century in Mexico. Rebellion and revolution are abroad in the land. Pancho Villa and his army of followers have captured the imagination of many, while the government's army pushes back against them. The Garza family with its three daughters, Rosaura, Gertrudis, and Tita, live quietly on their ancestral lands outside a small village near the border with the U.S. The daughters pursue their own paths in life, but as we and they learn Tita's path has been preordained for her. The family tradition is that the youngest daughter is not allowed to marry and that she must devote herself to caring for her parents in their old age. In this case, there is only one parent, Mama Elena, sin

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward: A review

Back in October, I read Jesmyn Ward's latest book, Sing, Unburied, Sing , set in the Mississippi Gulf Coast town of Bois Sauvage and the winner of the National Book Award for Fiction. It occurred to me then that I had never read this earlier book, also set in Bois Sauvage, also a National Book Award winner. Ward seems to be making a habit of that. I thought the book I read in October was amazing, but, if anything, this one is even better. It certainly packs even more of an emotional wallop. At least it did for me. I found that I could more easily empathize with these characters. The story centers around the Batiste family, a dirt poor - literally - African-American family living on land on the bayou outside of Bois Sauvage  inherited from grandparents. The family comprises a widowed father, three sons, and a daughter. Our main protagonist, the one whose eyes we look through, is the daughter, Esch. She is the third child of the family, now fourteen years old. The difficult birth

Poetry Sunday: The Laws of Motion by Nikki Giovanni

From her profile in Poetry Foundation magazine: "Nikki Giovanni is one of the best-known African-American poets who reached prominence during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her unique and insightful poetry testifies to her own evolving awareness and experiences: from child to young woman, from naive college freshman to seasoned civil rights activist, from daughter to mother. Frequently anthologized, Giovanni’s poetry expresses strong racial pride and respect for family. Her informal style makes her work accessible to both adults and children." Here's something completely different from what is usually featured here, but I would agree with the Poetry Foundation assessment that it is unique and insightful, as well as accessible. Enjoy! The Laws of Motion by Nikki Giovanni (for Harlem Magic) The laws of science teach us a pound of gold weighs as    much as a pound of flour though if dropped from any    undetermined height in their natural sta

This week in birds - #294

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Chipping Sparrows are always welcome winter visitors in my garden. *~*~*~* There were record high temperatures this week along the East Coast, including an 80 degree day on February 21 in Newark, New Jersey, that made that the highest temperature ever recorded there in the month of February.  *~*~*~* In July of last year, part of the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctica peninsula split away revealing an ecosystem below it that had been hidden for 120,000 years. Now scientists are racing to explore the marine life revealed by the calving of the ice shelf.  *~*~*~* Image from the Academy of Natural Sciences.  This week was the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the Carolina Parakeet , a bird once so numerous that flocks in flight blotted out the sun. If such a population can be utterly extinguished, perhaps the lesson for us is that anything can be. Even us. *~*~*~* It

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley: A review

The writing of Walter Mosley harkens back to masters like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and James Cain. The best of noir. This book was Mosley's introduction of his character, Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins. We meet Easy in 1948, three years after the end of World War II. He is a black man who had been raised in Houston and he had joined the army to fight Nazis during the war. He spent much of it sitting behind a typewriter, but when he had the chance, he volunteered to go with Gen. George Patton's Third Army into the heart of Europe. He fought his way through the rest of the war, including at the Battle of the Bulge, and returned home to Houston, but like many African-Americans in the South during that period, he found the atmosphere stifling and chose to move on. In Easy's case, he moved to Los Angeles, along with many others from Houston's Fifth Ward. As we meet Easy, we find that many in his circle of acquaintances in LA are former Houstonians. I felt

My Great Backyard Bird Count

The annual late winter count of birds is over. I spent a part of every day of the four-day weekend counting the birds in my own backyard.  I did my count while working in the yard, so I can't say that I was entirely focused on birds. Still, the count was pretty successful, with a total of twenty-eight species turning out to be counted. Unfortunately, as always, there were some species that show up regularly in the yard but didn't make an appearance during the weekend and so don't appear on my census. The first birds to appear on my count were, not surprisingly, the ever-present White-winged Doves . And the last one, recorded late yesterday, was a particularly colorful Pine Warbler . Looks like he's about ready for spring. In between, here's a list of everything that I saw in, around, or flying over my yard. Black Vulture Turkey Vulture  Sharp-shinned Hawk Red-shouldered Hawk Red-tailed Hawk White-winged Dove Mourning Dove Red-bellied Woodpecke

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler: A review

Parable of the Sower was published in 1993, but Octavia Butler was eerily - scarily - prescient in the mid 2020s world that she imagined. Who could have dreamed twenty-five years ago that this broken and divided country would elect a president who promised to "Make America Great Again" by eliminating the space program and getting rid of all environmental, health, and labor protection laws and opening up the nation to be carved up by large corporations and the greedy wealthy? Well, Octavia Butler did. If she were alive today, I wonder what she would think, seeing her vision come true. This book was planned as the first in a trilogy (the "Earthseed" trilogy), but after completing the first two books in the series, Butler reportedly suffered from severe writer's block in relation to the third book and was never able to complete it. Nevertheless, we have the first two, and, judging by this initial entry, that was a remarkable achievement. Once I started readi

Poetry Sunday: To Be In Love by Gwendolyn Brooks

It's a bit late since Valentine's Day was last Wednesday, but here is a poem by American poet Gwendolyn Brooks that tries to express what it means to be in love.  The person in love no longer experiences things only through his/her own senses; the world is experienced through the senses of the loved one as well. Love expands our awareness of the world and makes us more open to empathize with both the joys and sorrows of others. Love, in short, makes us better, more complete human beings. To Be In Love by Gwendolyn Brooks To be in love Is to touch with a lighter hand. In yourself you stretch, you are well.  You look at things Through his eyes. A cardinal is red. A sky is blue.  Suddenly you know he knows too. He is not there but You know you are tasting together The winter, or a light spring weather. His hand to take your hand is overmuch. Too much to bear. You cannot look in his eyes Because your pulse must not say What must not be said. When he Shuts a door-

This week in birds - #293

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Franklin's Gull (note white dots on black wingtips) photographed on a pier at Rockport, Texas. *~*~*~* Are you counting the birds in your neighborhood this weekend? Yes, it's the weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count . The count is now a worldwide event. It used to be limited to North America but was expanded in recent years and reports are now received from far-flung places on every continent, except possibly Antarctica. *~*~*~* It is feared that a reorganization of the Interior Department , planned by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, will muddle the responsibilities of various sections of the agency and will reduce the role of science in agency planning. *~*~*~* The number of oil and gas rigs in the United States increased by 38% last year . This is expected to have a significant climate impact since the oil and gas industry is a huge source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. *~*~*~*

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2018

Shhh! My garden is still sleeping. The shrubs have been pruned back. Winter clean-up is underway. There's a bit of green to go with the brown in spots. Undaunted by our colder than usual winter, the little leucojum blooms right on schedule. These sweet little blossoms do give the gardener hope. When they are the only thing blooming in the garden, they are precious indeed. But everything else is sleeping still. Waiting. Waiting... Hold on! Spring is just around the corner. It's nice to be able to visit Carol of May Dreams Gardens and find that some gardeners do have actual blooms this February. Happy Bloom Day to you all, whether or not you have any blooms.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz: A review

I love a good mystery. That's why I read so many of them. What I don't like is gimmicky mysteries. I especially don't like mystery writers who don't play fair; who use tricks, games, wordplay like anagrams, etc., to mislead and misdirect their readers.  I'm looking at you, Anthony Horowitz. I am most seriously displeased. I had had Magpie Murders in my reading queue for months, but decided to read it now because of a television show.  We had just finished watching the third and final season of Mackenzie Crook's wonderful gentle comedy about metal detecting, Detectorists, in   which magpies play a major part in the plot. Can you say "serendipity"? It seemed the universe was sending me a message so I decided to get on with it and read the book.  I had read mostly glowing reviews and my expectations were high. At the beginning of the book, we meet book editor Susan Ryeland who has a new book from her publishing house's most popular author